This article appeared originally on Next Avenue.
If you’d like to earn more money, science has a simple and attractive solution: Sleep more. Turns out, sleep deprivation is not only bad for your health; it’s bad for your bank account.
A third of U.S. workers report they regularly get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, leading to the loss of some 1.2 million working days and robbing the U.S. economy of an estimated $226 billion annually, according to a 2016 study by Rand Europe. And 65 percent of Americans are losing sleep because of money, according to a recent CreditCards.com report. That’s the big picture.
But here’s the close-up: A 2016 study from Matthew Gibson of Williams College and Jeffrey Shrader of the University of California at San Diego showed that people who increased their sleep by one hour a night saw their wages increase by 5 percent in the long-run.
Getting more shut-eye paid a big dividend for Tony Warren. A businessman and professor at Penn State University, after struggling with chronic sleep problems and constant tiredness, he decided to retire. That’s when he suffered a mini-stroke, one of the serious health risks of poor sleep. For Warren, that was a wake-up call.
“I wanted to feel better and be more energetic,” he said. “So I did some research and learned that breath-training exercises could help.”
Not only did his sleep improve, he also developed software to help others learn these breathing techniques and launched a successful new business.
There are 40 million people like Warren in the United States whose work lives—and bank accounts—are diminished by sleeplessness.
“I hear people say, ‘If I want to make money, I need to sleep less,’ ” said Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and author of “Sleeping Your Way to the Top: How to Get the Sleep You Need to Succeed.” “But the fact is, you need to get enough sleep, and get it consistently. That improves the quality of your working hours and helps you make good financial and professional decisions—and avoid bad risks.”
Doctors already know that poor sleep leads to poor health; it’s connected to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other physical conditions. But only lately have we been learning that poor sleep is bad for your financial health, too.
Here’s what the latest research says:
Your memory and productivity may plummet. Nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2016 said that lack of sleep makes them less productive; 17 percent said it affects their memory.
You may look like a slacker. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 20 percent of workers report falling asleep during business meetings or feeling drowsy while doing tasks requiring concentration.
You won’t be able to work well with others. Lack of sleep increases blood levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—which can take a toll on work relationships. Plus, research shows, being tired makes it tough to interpret facial cues, and that can lead to misunderstandings with co-workers.
Your ability to learn slows down. Every day, you’re bombarded with new information, new technology and new tasks. But sleep deprivation cuts your ability to learn new things by as much as 40 percent.
Sound familiar? If so, that could be a problem for you—you’re less likely to get a raise or a promotion—and it will be a problem for your boss. A recent Harvard study showed that zoning out at work decreases national productivity by $463.2 billion annually. HR people have a name for this problem— “presenteeism.”
If you’ve tried all the usual sleep tips (from avoiding caffeine and computer screens to establishing regular bedtimes) but nothing seems to help, there’s hope. Here are the latest simple, science-based solutions for a good night’s sleep:
Listen to music. Soothing sounds and white-noise machines can be helpful, but Michael Tyrell, a composer and creator of Wholetones healing music programs, said high-frequency music is super-effective for deep sleep.
“That works on centers where we feel guilty or bitter, which can make it tough to relax. In a survey, we found that people struggling with insomnia were able to kick the Ambien habit after using our CD ‘Life, Love, and Lullabies.’ ”
Turn down the thermostat, said Shawn Stevenson, author of “Sleep Smarter.“ “At around 9 in the evening, your core body temperature drops to facilitate sleep. But many insomniacs don’t experience that temperature drop,” Stevenson said. His advice: Cool off your bedroom and wear light summer pajamas all year—or even sleep in the buff.
A Dutch study showed that people with chronic insomnia slept longer and more deeply simply by lowering their body temperature by one degree before bedtime.
Get massages. Everybody knows that massage feels great, says Stevenson, but it’s also a powerful sleep aid.
“It increases your body’s production of serotonin and oxytocin, the feel-good neurotransmitters. No wonder it can help us glide off to dreamland,” he said.
Make a date with sleep. Everyone’s used to a buzzer jolting them out of bed in the morning, but try it as a reminder to hit the sack at night. You can also use an app like Bedtime to help you get into a sleep routine.
“Electronics can cause us to lose track of time,” Cralle said. “So set an evening alarm on your phone to tackle the problem of bedtime procrastination.”
Embrace flower power. Research shows that certain plants, like valerian and gardenia, may improve air quality in your bedroom and “air quality and sleep are closely tied,” Cralle said. And speaking of plants, try a nightcap of tart cherry juice. There’s recent evidence that it can be helpful, too.
Kick the sleeping-pill habit. Instead of prescription or over-the-counter sleeping aids, go natural. The sleep-inducing hormone melatonin can be very helpful for many people, said Carolyn Dean, author of “The Magnesium Miracle.” Try magnesium as well, she advised.
“Magnesium is vitally important for relaxing the body, stimulating the neurotransmitters that help us sleep, allowing people to get a deeper sleep,” she said.
You can find magnesium online, in health food stores, or in pharmacies; look for magnesium citrate tablets or try sipping magnesium citrate powder in your tea throughout the day.
More on sleep science from Rewire: